WPA field recordings at Cherry Lake (1936-1937 recording expedition)

Date: 1936

Source: S1576 , T86-223

Type: Sound

Download: MP3

Event Name

Collector or Fieldworker

Tradition Bearer

Genre or Occupation

Title of Work

  • How Beautiful Heaven Must Be (Rycroft)
  • When the Gates Swing Open For Me (Rycroft/Bethea on piano)
  • Crying Holy Unto the Lord (Booth/Jameson)
  • Sit Down and Rest a While (Macon)
  • Look Down That Lonseome Road (Carr)
  • Heaven Will Be Brighter (Stamps-Baxter)
  • Bound for the Pormised Land (Bethea/Stamps-Baxter)
  • Hallelujah Way (Stamps-Baxter)
  • Smile and Sing (Stamps-Baxter)
  • Mocking Bird (Perry/Carver)
  • Mocking Bird (Wise)
  • Old Hen Cacle (Wise)
  • Train Blues (Wise)
  • Old Joe Clark (Wise)
  • Take a Tater and Wait (Wise)
  • Talking Blues (Wise)
  • Leather Britches (Wise)
  • Sharon (Wise)
  • Katy Johnson (Wise)
  • Boil Them Cabbage Down (Wise)
  • Chicken Reel (Wise)
  • Flop-Eared Mule (Carr)
  • Bill Bailey (Carr)
  • Bill Johnson (Carr)
  • Barbara Allen (Carr)

Place Name

Corporate or Conference Name


  • One reel to reel. (Copied onto audio cassette C90-52/53, in S 1576.) These recordings were created during the 1936-1937 expedition led by John Lomax. In these recordings Lomax’s colleague visited Cherry Lake.(NOTE -- Valiant's papers can be found at the Mississippi State University's Special Collections.) These were the second of several WPA recording expeditions in Florida. At the time Lomax was in charge of the folklife section of the Federal Writers Project. He left that position in 1938, and in 1939 returned to Florida. See the online exhibit about that 1939 expedition at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/lohtml/lohome.html For more detailed information on the recordings, see S 1579, box 3, for copies of the original LOC indexes. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) – after 1939, the Works Projects Administration – was a work-relief program created in 1935 by the Roosevelt Administration that employed over 8.5 million people between 1935 and 1943. One of its programs was the Federal Writers Project (FWP), which included the Folklore Section. This section conducted fieldwork, recording songs, traditions, and stories across the nation. Originally created to gather material for the American Guide Series, but later emphasis was placed upon fieldwork for preservation of folk traditions for future use. In Florida, the FWP was based out of Jacksonville, and directed by historian Carita Doggett Corse. Folklorist Stetson Kennedy directed the Florida Folklife section. Seven recording expeditions were conducted in Florida. Two were conducted between 1935 and 1937, before the creation of the Florida Folklore Section: one by Alan Lomax and Zora Neale Hurston, and the other by John and Ruby Lomax. After 1939, five more were conducted by Florida’s FWP staff: Kennedy, Hurston, Robert Cook, Alton Morris, Corse, Robert Cornwell, John Filareton, and Herbert Halpert (of the Joint Committee on Folk Art’s Southern Recording Expedition.) Recording equipment was loaned to Florida’s WPA program by the Library of Congress’ Archive of the American Folk Song (later the American Folk Center). The field recordings were made on acetate disks, usually recorded at 78 rpm (although occasionally at 33 rpm). Because these disks were shipped from Washington DC to Florida, then to the recording site, and then back to Washington, these disks often were not of the highest sonic quality. Several had surface scratches and many had various recording speeds. In 1986, the FFP staff made copies of many of these recordings onto reel to reels for inclusion to the Florida Folklife Archive. The originals are still housed with the Library of Congress, and many are available online.

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